One of the biggest stumbling blocks I hear in genealogy all the time is, “My ancestor wouldn’t have done that?” Wanna bet! If you have this in your mind, then you will no doubt cut off some important learning options.
For example, bigamy was much more common than polygamy. If you have ever found your male ancestor listed twice in the same census, but with a different wife, then you start asking an entirely different set of research questions.
Another example is racial mixing. I’m not necessarily just talking about the master-slave plantation relationship either. All you have to do is look at how mixed-blood the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), and Seminole are, and you get an entirely different view of history from what we were taught in school.
All the social ills we have today were alive and well back in the day. We didn’t invent them. A man could abandon his family in Missouri for the gold fields of Alaska and the Yukon; never to be heard from again. Who’s going to catch him?
Then there’s spiritual experimentation. You will commonly find people belonging or flirting with Spiritualism, Theosophy, Mormonism, Adventism, Bible Students, New Thought, Christian Science, free love communes, Shakers and Quakers.
Politics is another one. Don’t be surprised if you find your ancestors involved in the Socialist Party, suffrage, abolition and temperance movements.
Be flexible as you examine your ancestors in the context of history. Their stories can be fascinating and colorful.